The ubiquitous human rights group Amnesty International recently released its report on “the state of the world’s human rights.” It calls attention to a wide range of issues spanning 149 countries, including many that remain unresolved.
Within this category, the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners, described as the worst crime against humanity in the latter half of the 20th century, stands out above most others. Unfortunately, the international community has been reluctant to address this crime against humanity and hold the regime accountable.
As a result of that inexplicable silence, the regime developed an enhanced sense of impunity to annihilate the organized opposition. In May 1988, “death commissions” began convening in prisons throughout Iran, with the mandate to interrogate political prisoners over their attitudes toward the theocratic system and to summarily execute those who failed to demonstrate fealty to the regime and its supreme leader. Then-supreme leader Khomeini declared in a fatwa (religious decree) that anyone associated with the principal opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is guilty of enmity against God and must be immediately executed.
The same vague charge has since been used in countless instances to justify draconian punishments against dissidents. According to the Amnesty International report, “Several protesters were sentenced to death following unfair trials which relied on torture-tainted ‘confessions.’” Therefore, the same tactics used in the 1988 massacre remain commonplace in Iran.
This comes as no surprise considering that one of the leading figures in the 1988 massacre, Ebrahim Raisi, is now the head of Iran’s judiciary. He has reportedly overseen an escalating crackdown on dissent, aspects of which an earlier Amnesty report titled “Trampling Humanity” has detailed. The report focused on the widespread torture meted out to protesters arrested during a nationwide uprising in November 2019. According to Amnesty, “authorities continued to cover-up the real death toll” from incidents in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps opened fire on crowds of protesters.
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